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BUSINESS

Electricity: FG to disburse N269.38bn for six million free meters

NEWSMAN, Abuja – Federal Government is to spend between N269.38bn and N497.13bn on the provision of six million free meters to various unmetered power users across the country.

Findings from separate quarterly reports of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) reveal that the number of unmetered customers in Nigeria has reduced by 210,359.

However, about 245,916 unmetered power consumers would not benefit from the six million free meters, as Nigeria currently has about 6,245,916, PUNCH reported.

On Thursday, a presidency source told reporters in Abuja that the government would commence its free meter distribution scheme the following day with Kano, Kaduna, Eko and Ikeja electricity distribution companies’ franchise areas under the National Mass Metering Programme.

“The NMMP is to roll out six million meters for all connection points on grid without meters over the next 18 to 24 months, estimated to impact 30 million consumers nationwide,” the official stated.

It was also gathered that the mass metering scheme took effect after a recent directive by President Muhammadu Buhari to the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Based on the directive, the CBN approved guidelines for funding the programme, which entailed that all meters under the scheme would be locally sourced in order to create more jobs.

Meanwhile, most meters used by power consumers in Nigeria come in single phases and three phases. The power sector regulator in June approved a hike in the prices of both meters.

The commission increased the price for a three-phase meter from N67,055.85 to N82,855.19, while the cost of a single-phase meter was raised from N36,991.50 to N44,896.17.

Going by the hike in prices, findings showed that for three-phase meters, a total of N497.13bn would be required to provide the six million meters planned for free distribution nationwide.

On the other hand, for the single phase meter, a total of N269.38bn would be required to provide free six million meters.

It therefore shows that the government would need to spend a minimum of N269.38bn to freely provide the six million meters planned for nationwide distribution.

However, data in the most recent quarterly report of NERC showed that the number of unmetered customers in Nigeria was more than six million.

Unmetered customers in Nigeria, according to analysis of the first quarter 2020 industry report that was recently released by the commission, was 6,245,916.

This indicates that a total of 245,916 power users may not benefit from the free six million meters that are planned for distribution by the government.

Findings from separate NERC quarterly reports showed that while the number of unmetered customers in Nigeria in the fourth quarter of 2019 was 6,456,275, the figure dropped by 210,359 to 6,245,916 in the first quarter of this year.

The commission said in its recent report, “Although there was a slight improvement during the quarter, the huge metering gap for end-use customers remains a key challenge in the industry.

“The records of the commission indicate that of the 10,477,856 registered electricity customers as at the end of the first quarter of 2020, only 4,231,940 (40.39 per cent) have been metered.

“Thus, 59.61 per cent of the registered electricity customers are still on estimated billing which has contributed to customer apathy towards payment of electricity bills.”

In comparison to the fourth quarter of 2019, the commission stated that registered and metered customers increased by one per cent and eight per cent respectively.

 It explained that the increase in registered customer population was due to the ongoing customer enumeration exercise by power distribution companies.

The NERC stated that through this means, unregistered consumers of electricity were brought unto the Discos’ billing platform.

“Similarly, the increase in metered customers was attributed to the roll out of meters under the Meter Asset Provider scheme,” it added.

A review of the customer population data in the report indicated that all the Discos recorded progress in the metering of their customers as of March 31, 2020 compared with December 31, 2019.

Further findings showed that Abuja, Benin and Eko Discos had metered more than 50 per cent of their registered electricity customers as of March 31, 2020.

To ensure speedy metering of electricity customers in line with the target of closing the metering gap in the Nigeria Electricity Supply Industry by December 31, 2021, the commission said it had continued its monitoring of Discos.

It said the monitoring exercise was to ensure that the Discos implemented and complied with the provisions of the MAP Regulations to fast-track meter roll out.

The commission stated that during the quarter, it approved more preferred MAPs for Discos that had finalised their MAPs procurement process, increasing the total number of approved MAPs to 29 as of the end of the quarter.

The Deputy President, Nigeria Labour Congress, Joe Ajaero, told our correspondent that part of the recent power sector discussion between organised labour and the Federal Government also bordered on the provision of meters to unmetered customers

Ajaero, who doubles as General Secretary, National Union of Electricity Employees, said it was important for power users to have meters in order to accurately pay for what they consumed.

On his part, the Secretary-General, Nigerian Electricity Consumers Advocacy Network, Uket Obonga, said power distributors must work with their respective Meter Asset Providers to close the metering gap in Nigeria.

Ubonga welcomed the six million free meter scheme of the Federal Government. He noted that the exercise would considerably reduce the metering gap if adequately implemented.

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